Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review : The Translator by Nina Schuyler

Publisher: Pegasus Books
Published on:- July 2nd, 2013.

(Original review posted on Goodreads:- Sep 1, 2013)

I have always frowned upon people who seem to think that reading is a mere pastime, barely suppressing the resentment I felt for those who consider the act of complete engagement with a narrative akin to a childish desire of letting go of reality for a while and stepping into a world detached from our own. I believed them to be ignorant, presumptuous and hopelessly prejudiced.
But after having read The Translator, I feel like I have gained enlightenment of a special kind, become a more empathetic and thoughtful being blessed with a newer perspective on the matter.

Reading can, indeed, be categorized as a form of escapism. A gateway opening up into another metaphysical dimension we cannot gain physical access to. Or it can be the very best thing about our lives. Reading can be whatever we will it to be or perceive it to be. Because contrary to what we like to believe, our world views and personal preferences end up coloring the judgement we pronounce upon every thing else. Nothing can be classified as the absolute truth. It is not wise to view an opinion as a fact, certainly not our own, since our understanding of the world is forever a work in progress.

The essence of The Translator consists not so much of the life events of one particular Hanne Schubert, who effortlessly navigates the world of various languages, but of the basic human fallacy of failing to understand another, the accompanying pangs of miscommunication and the tragedies that transpire as a consequence.
A professional translator, Hanne, eases into the reticent formality of the Japanese language from the confident brusqueness of English within the same heartbeat. She keenly understands the basics of linguistics and elements of a foreign culture, yet struggles to understand her own flesh and blood. As a result, an unbridgeable chasm opens up between Hanne and her daughter Brigitte and this yawning gap stretches across time and space, affecting Hanne in ways she remains unwilling to acknowledge.

She continues to drift through a life revolving around translation assignments, shouldering the burden of repressed grief for her departed husband and estranged daughter without letting it engulf her completely.
But when an accident involving a head injury causes her to lose her mastery of all languages barring Japanese, she is forced to evaluate her true standing in life and embark on a journey of self-discovery, at the end of which she reconciles with her daughter. Although by the time realization dawns on her, it is too late.

But is it really? Nina Schuyler seems to leave the reader with the message that it is never too late to cast aside reluctance and commence the often difficult, two-way process of communication, to stop speaking for a while and patiently listen to what the other one is saying without offering interruptions. And perhaps, it will not be mere folly to take off the rose-tinted glasses of preconceived notions and glance at the world once again, just so we can see facets of it we have been willfully blind to.

As a relatively new author, Nina Schuyler shows incredible promise. Her elegant, understated writing style succeeds in capturing the poignancy of many tender moments. There is something deeply atmospheric about this book and had it not been for the meticulous research that Schuyler must have conducted on Japanese culture and language (even the mention of Japanese tv show 'Long Vacation' holds true since I have seen it), half of the scenarios wouldn't have come to life as they did. Japan, the character of Moto Okuro, the theatre art of Noh could have resembled lifeless replicas but in Schuyler's deft hands, they appear believable.

Hence, a very impressed 4.5 stars rounded off to a 4.

This is definitely the best among all the 2013 releases I have had the fortune of reading so far.

**I received an ARC from netgalley in exchange for an honest review**

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